Mean Boss

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"Listen to me, you stupid little runt. I own you. You're my bitch! So don't walk around here thinking you have free will because you DON'T. I can break you anytime I want! So settle in, because you are in this for the long haul!"
David Harken, Horrible Bosses

The Mean Boss is related to the Pointy-Haired Boss. He's certainly given the higher-ups every reason to have confidence in him. He's competent, knows what he's doing, and keeps his workers motivated. It's the way that he keeps them motivated that's the problem. He'll yell at you for being a minute late, give you mountains of work the night before it's due, have a heart attack any time you even suggest that you might deserve a raise for all your hard work, and nearly rip your head off at the drop of a hat. He may be a money-grubber, egocentric, or just plain ornery. Very often played for laughs.

Compare Dr. Jerk, Da Chief, and Da Editor, three other tropes with frequent crossover. For the REALLY extreme (and downright villainous) version, see Bad Boss.

Examples:

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Anime and Manga
  • Tsunade from Naruto is very much this, especially in the fillers. As Hokage (the chief of the village), she is shown to have a very short temper and is strict about shinobi going on missions and reporting back to her immediately upon completion. When enraged, she would throw her chair and other furniture out the window, and have Izumo and Kotetsu retrieve them.
  • In Bambino, Ban is assigned to work under Katori Nozomi, who never pass the chance to berate, insult or even beat him up.

Comic Strips
  • Catbert, the Evil Human Resources Director of Dilbert lives up to that title. He even controls the trope-naming Pointy-Haired Boss to some extent to make everyone else's lives miserable.
  • J.C. Dithers of Blondie is quite possibly the Ur-example. (Of course, despite the fact that he fires Dagwood on a regular basis, he always hires him back for some strange reason.)
  • Mr. Pembrook of FoxTrot is quite possibly definitely an egocentric type - he once fired a massive amount of workers and then gave himself a $300,000 raise, and in another strip he sent out a memo ordering the employees to make themselves look bad in the company photo so he'd look better by comparison. He also implies in the same strip that he didn't send Roger the memo and that he wants Roger at his side specifically because Roger already meets the required directions without knowing it. In another strip he had Roger work as a clown at his son's birthday party (that's in Roger's job description; he thought it was a joke when he was hired; a lot of what happened at the party is likely best left to the imagination, but Pembrook begged him not to sue.)
  • Stuart in Retail is a combination of this and Pointy-Haired Boss. Takes pride in the fact that most employees hate him.
    • The initial district manager, Jerry, really fit the part as the jerk boss, leading Marla to comment that he was a "mean spirited jerk" (which Jerry unfortunately overheard). In the blog of the strip's character Cooper (www.coopersretailblog.com), he described Jerry as a "douchebag." In Jerry's last appearance in the strip it was revealed that he misremembered Marla's name on purpose.

Comic Books

Fan Works
  • In the Harry Potter fanfic Mirror Of Maybe, Voldemort cannonically tortures his servants on a regular basis for any failure. More than that, since he intends to live forever, he forces his all-male inner circle to marry certain women and produce children so he will always have strong servants. Even if they happen to be homosexual.

Film
  • Bill Lumbergh from Office Space. He always makes people work on weekends and continuously orders Milton to move his desk to increasingly absurd locations (ending in the roach-infested basement). Plus he took Milton's favorite stapler...again (which is one of the reasons why he set the building on fire).
  • Philbin in Phantom of the Paradise. The musicians that work for him are motivated through a combination of casual threats and Speed, and as far as Philbin's concerned, they're all more than replacable. Plus, he doesn't take rejection by his Ingenues well- hence his conversation with Swan, the real villain of the story.
  • Marty Wolff of Big Fat Liar is a complete Jerkass to everyone around him, but he gets his just desserts.
    • Les Grossman from Tropic Thunder is probably even worse than Marty Wolff.
  • Harold Cornish in Identity Thief, a Smug Snake executive who treats all his underlings as replaceable cogs who should be happy they even have a job. He announces for the second year in a row that the company isn't doing well enough to justify bonuses for the employees. Meanwhile, he has Sandy cut checks for "special" bonuses for the partners with himself getting a million-dollar bonus. When Sandy expresses confusion, Cornish tells him that Sandy's job can be filled by Quicken (the software), meanwhile people like him (Cornish) are the ones who make all the money for the company and deserve the bonuses, referencing The Fountainhead as an explanation.
    • Averted with Sandy's new boss, Daniel Casey, who recognizes Sandy's skills, makes him a VP and quintuples his salary. On the other hand, he's willing to fire Sandy over a case of identity theft.
  • The shoe's floor manager is a total meanie to John in The Devil and Miss Jones, belittling him whenever he gets the chance.
  • In The Nutty Professor (second version), Dean Richmond is a nasty type who fires Klump once in each film, clearly looking for an excuse to get rid of him, and when Klump has his job, Richmund rarely hides his contempt for him and even makes fun of his weight. (He does redeem himself a little by siding with Klump to stop Buddy Love from stealing the patent for the fountain of youth formula in the climax of the second movie.)
  • The Incredibles: Gilbert Huph, who explicitly makes it his company's mission to deny people their insurance, which of course doesn't sit well with former superhero Bob Parr. He even threatens to fire Bob if he goes to try and stop a mugging, then rubs it in his face. Thankfully Laser-Guided Karma kicks in an instant later.
  • In Suffragette, Maud's boss exploits his workers and pays the women (who work more hours than the men) significantly worse. The working conditions are awful; the women tend to die early because of the poisonous chemicals they work with, accidents are not uncommon. He also rapes his underage employees, and fires one woman because he disapproves of her political activities.

Literature
  • Julius Root of Artemis Fowl is this with a dash of sexism thrown in in the beginning. Justified for political reasons; Holly was the first female recon officer, so he needed her to be a good example.
  • William Shortpaws of the Geronimo Stilton series, is definitely a mean boss. Geronimo's grandfather and owner/publisher of the newspaper where his maternal grandson works, he never misses an opportunity to remind Geronimo who's in charge, and is constantly yelling at him or threatening to fire him. He's also very cheap, and in fact is called "Cheapskate Willy" (behind his back). However, he does pay his grandson the odd backhanded compliment when he does something particularly heroic that will give the paper good publicity. He also seems to favor Thea, and will do anything she asks him to, and appreciates his cook Tiny Spicetail's cooking to the point that he actually gets her get away with her attitude.
  • Warwick, the mill foreman in Stephen King's "Graveyard Shift" is this, to a degree (he doesn't quite rise to the level of Bad Boss, but he's sure not a nice one; basically, he's a company man, and determined to fulfill his superiors' orders to get the mill's basement cleared out no matter what). He yells at people for slacking, belittles and patronizes the workers, and threatens to fire anyone who doesn't want to deal with the huge rats living in the subterrene darkness. Never displaying any outright villainous behavior, he's nonetheless loathed by Hall for no reason Hall can put his finger on. Of course, in the film based on the story, he's given a slight dose of Adaptational Villainy.

Live-Action Television
  • Principal Osgood Conklin on Our Miss Brooks. He makes teachers type out his speeches and reports, shouts often, runs the Madison High like a dictator, demands Christmas presents, and even has a habit of forcing teachers to work on Christmas and Summer holidays.
    Mr. Conklin: I cannot force you to work on your summer vacation. But, let me remind you Miss Brooks, I have it in my power to make your time at Madison very pleasant or very miserable!
  • Dr. Kelso from Scrubs is a prime example. In fact, he pretty much stated outright why he is such a Mean Boss (its how he keeps the entire hospital staff unified and peaceful, even if they hate his guts).
  • Dr. House from House, M.D.: in Season 4, he fires people for not being hot enough! at one point. Not to mention the variety of illegal, immoral, demeaning, and humiliating things he orders his staff to do, often just to satisfy his ego by reminding himself that he can.
  • Mr. Wick from The Drew Carey Show, who took great glee in coming up with new ways to fire people. Even one time he acted generous and treated Drew by taking him to a nightclub, the nightclub itself had a Hell-based theme.
  • Bob Odenkirk played one in a Mr. Show sketch.
    Odenkirk: You call yourselves junior executives?! YOU'RE SENIOR JACKASSES!!!
  • Max is set up as one of these in the pilot of Sean Saves The World, of the unbending, humorless hardass variety.
  • In That '70s Show Red Forman is like this to his employees, and won't deny it if you raise the point. When the family is congratulating him on getting the job at Price-Mart, Hyde says "God help the poor bastards who work for you!" Red merely smiles and laughs, taking it as a compliment.
  • Louie from Taxi Zig Zags this. He tries to be a Mean Boss, and he uses a lot of dirty tricks to get the better of employees (often downright illegal ones) but very few of them are truly intimidated by him at all, and he usually comes out the loser in any confrontation.
  • The Dreaded Malcolm Tucker in The Thick of It - foul-mouthed, foul-tempered, brilliantly gifted at his job, and absolutely merciless with the politicians he manages, who compare him to Goebbels.
  • Subverted in the Modern Family episode "Spring-a-Ding Fling." Mitchell takes a new job at a legal clinic run by a former law-school classmate of his. Throughout the episode a number of things he sees and overhears make him think he's made a serious mistake and that she's this trope. When he finally confronts her on this in front of everyone else, every single thing turns out to be Not What It Looks Like. For example, what he thought was her telling him to groom, i.e. wash, her dog was actually her asking him to groom, i.e. mentor, an intern.
  • In Game of Thrones Robert Baratheon takes enjoyment in abusing his subordinates, at least as long as they're Lannisters. While sending a naive page to fetch a breastplate stretcher could be seen as a harmless prank, deliberately throwing his infidelity into the face of his bodyguard, who is also his brother-in-law, and incidentally is called the Kingslayer for killing the last man he was guarding, seems both cruel and stupid.
  • Max And Shred Kaylee, owner of the Yogurt Yeti.
  • Open Heart has Jared, the obnoxious volunteer program supervisor.
  • Chief Boden from Chicago Fire is not an example. However, he takes a leave of absence after his father dies and is replaced by Chief Pridgen, who is. He snaps at Severide for countering an order even though Severide is following procedure (Pridgen later admits he was wrong). He laughs at Otis for slipping and falling at a call and proceeds to repeatedly tease him about it. When Severide and Casey confront him about that, Pridgen criticizes them for insubordination, even bringing up Severide countering his order before (the one he admitted was correct). Thankfully, he's gone by the end of his second episode.

Professional Wrestling
  • Ivory and Jacqueline got this reputation as trainers in Ohio Valley Wrestling, after having been seen as cool enough on Tough Enough.
  • "The Lovely" Lacey, leading her "Lacey's Angels", especially regarding her most loyal member, Jimmy Jacobs. However, when Jacobs started the Age Of The Fall, he proved to be an outright Bad Boss...accept to Lacey, who he was just mean to but still loved.
  • Mark Henry toward Mr. USA Tony Atlas when Atlas acted as his manager in WWECW. This ended up costing Henry when he dismissed an offer for help from Atlas, leading to Henry being double teamed by CM Punk and Luke Gallows.

Video Games
  • Edgar's boss in The Act is not above smacking him around if he doesn't think Edgar is doing his job.
  • Undertale: if Burgerpants is any indication, Mettaton is this. He has made an entire album full of songs about how bad Burgerpants is at his job.

Web Animation
  • Marca Toons' cartoon portrayal of José Mourinho fits the description. Especially in his disdain towards Pedro León:
    Mourinho: Is there anyone who can make it on Monday?
    Pedro León: Me, me, me...!
    Mourinho: Pedro León, step aside. You don't let me see the real footballers.

Web Comics
  • № 1 who leads the Help Service in Hell(p) is one of the more unpleasant cast members, which says a lot considering the story takes place in Hell.
  • In Godslave, Heru seems to be this for the Blacksmiths. When talking to him, Turner alternates between trying to keep him placating and asking Heru to stop talking and let his man do his work.
  • In Skin Horse, when the agency expands, Sweetheart takes revenge on a few old enemies by requisitioning them as transfers so she can be a Mean Boss to them.
    Tip: Sweetheart, you've got to fire Dr. Engelbright. There's no reason for her to be here.
    Sweetheart: Uh huh.
    Tip: She's been stepping on our toes for years! Remember that church potluck she gassed?
    Sweetheart: Uh huh.
    Tip: I know for fact you don't like her. So why would you want to be... her boss...
    Sweetheart: Uh huh.
    Tip: Aaand that would be the reason.
    Sweetheart: [grinning] Engelbright! I have many crucial but vaguely-worded tasks for you!
  • In Broken Telephone, Manisha overhears a murder on a customer service call. Her boss forces her to take another call before reporting it to the police.

Web Original
  • In Noob, Master Zen's case happened mostly offscreen due to the story starting when his de facto replacement as the Noob guild's Black Mage buys the game that serves as the setting. He mostly qualifies due to his Hair-Trigger Temper and by comparison to the Noob guild's current leader. His reaction to not getting the leader position is back after his leave of absence is to go after his former subordinates in real life almost makes him overlap with Bad Boss (kidnapping in the webseries, outright murder attempts in the comic). Later, he starts a new guild and the webseries storyline has a big drawback for Master Zen turn into a Pseudo Crisis only because he had his subordinates take turns day and night to work on repairing the damage.

Western Animation
  • Mr. Krabs of Spongebob Squarepants is either this or the Pointy-Haired Boss (He's certainly got the moneygrubbing down pat).
  • Mr. Spacely, George Jetson's boss.
    • Spacely's business rival, Mr. Cogswell is just as bad. The worst part is, George is often caught in the middle of Mr. Spacely's plots to one-up Cogswell.
  • Possibly Mr. Slate from The Flintstones.
    • In a few episodes, maybe, though most episodes seemed to portray him as reasonably amiable toward his workers (Wilma even invites him to Fred's birthday party in one episode), and only going into Mean Boss territory when Fred does something foolish/job-endangering. In one episode, he even convinced his new vice president to bend the rules a little when the new company policy required employees to have a high school diploma, letting Fred keep his job if he simply took a two week course to get one.
  • Mr Herriman from Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends, though he heads into Pointy-Haired Boss territory for being incompetent at times.
  • C. Montgomery Burns, Homer's maniacal boss from The Simpsons.
  • Benson from Regular Show.
    • To be fair, Benson just has to deal with slackers like Mordecai and Rigby (Muscle Man sometimes gets on his nerves as well). He's actually quite reasonable with Pops and Skips.
      • But from the point of view of the actual protagonists, Benson is a prick who takes away anything that gives the two the slightest joy (in any given episode) and then threatens to fire them.
    • Benson's own boss, Mr. Maellard, is definitely this, being far meaner to him than Benson is to Mordecai and Rigby.
  • Mr. Plotz from Animaniacs is like this most of the time, but he can be somewhat nice to employees on occasion.
  • In Codename: Kids Next Door:
    • Numbuh 86 is downright mean whenever she is in a position to lead a team (and seeing as she outranks most other operatives, she can do that rather often; not to mention that, seeing as she's Head of Decomissions, they're downright terrified of her). Fortunately, Numbuh 362, the Supreme Leader of the organization, is much nicer.
    • Also, Mr. Boss is the Big Bad of the show (well one of them) but he's this towards his normal employees.
  • Mr. Wilter from ChalkZone.
  • Malory Archer from Archer. Also, Lance Casteau from the "Live and Let Dine" episode.
  • Mr. Mufflin from Fanboy and Chum Chum.
  • Nester from Scaredy Squirrel.
  • Gart from Robot and Monster.
  • Temple Fugate, before becoming the Clock King, in Batman: The Animated Series. Threatening to fire an employee for being five minutes late seems mean to a normal human being, but Fugate is a Schedule Fanatic who only cares for punctuality. If you’re a punctual employee, Fugate would be civil to you, but never appreciative.
  • Chief Rojas was like this on The Batman, although in truth, Batman was the one he was angry at, and he was taking it out on his men.
  • The King (obviously modeled on Charles Laughton) who Yosemite Sam works for in the Looney Tunes short Shishkabugs.
  • Mona Autumn from Littlest Pet Shop (2012), editor in chief for Tres Blase magazine. Turns out she only acts the way she does to weed out sycophants and those who aren't truly passionate about their work.
    Mona: If you keep telling me things I don't want to hear, I will put your career into a blender and push puree!
  • Grunkle Stan from Gravity Falls, made especially evident in the episode "Boss Mabel". The episode more or less justifies it since Mabel as the Benevolent Boss was taken advantage of by Wendy, and run up the wall by Soos ineptitude. By the end, Mabel concedes to Grunkle Stan that being the boss requires a mentality to deal with the shenanigans of his employees.

Real Life
  • James Cameron is widely regarded as one. He is frequently described as egotistical and cruel, frequently yelling at people (even at Arnold Schwarzenegger, when he went to the bathroom before shooting a scene from True Lies!), and abusing his crew with anything, from working through meal breaks to spending too much time in water sets (people getting sick during The Abyss and Titanic were common). As early as the first Terminator, shirts written "You can't scare me... I work for James Cameron" were common in his sets (while shooting T2, there was also "Terminator 3? Not with me!"). Titanic star Kate Winslet stated she would only work with Cameron again for "a lot of money". Orson Scott Card described working with him on The Abyss as "hell on wheels", and later described his tendency to force the blame on others (though leaving him unnamed) in his review of Me and Orson Welles.
    • On the other hand, he does lead by example - during The Abyss, he was usually first into the big tank and last out, working on script edits as he decompressed (it was that big a tank). During True Lies, he insisted on doing the camera work shooting Jamie Lee Curtis dangling from the helicopter personally, under the principle that he's not going to theoretically endanger his lead while he sat safely on the ground. The camera work in question involved being harnessed up so he could lean out an open 'copter door with said heavy camera on his shoulder dozens of feet above the Florida Keys.
  • By many accounts, Steve Jobs was one. Despite having his nicer moments and leading Apple to become an extremely rich Mega Corp., he had no problem verbally abusing people if he thought their ideas sucked. He also threw several hissy fits over minor details, like a computer having a pop-out tray.
  • Steve Ballmer was one when he was leading Microsoft after Bill Gates left the company to pursue his humanitarian dreams. There are many security footage of Ballmer breaking office furniture to intimidate employees, as well as verbally abusing them if they fail to perform.
  • Movie producer Scott Rudin (No Country for Old Men, most of Wes Anderson's movies) is by all accounts an egomaniacal Jerkass who routinely abuses his assistants, through throwing phones at them, shouting at them for the most minor of offenses, throwing assistants out of moving cars and firing one for going to a funeral. His assistants frequently have George Jetson Job Security, to the point where they reconvene at a local café and wait for him to calm down enough to rehire them. His Hair-Trigger Temper is go great that it allegedly both inspired Malcolm Tucker and Buddy Ackerman and got him labeled "The biggest asshole in Hollywood".
  • Similarly, former 20th Century Fox CEO (and current Sony Pictures CEO) Tom Rothman is infamous for being one. According to this article, Rothman took an It Will Never Catch On approach to Titanic and Avatar, micromanaged the X-Men series (including him not wanting Sentinels), drove Bryan Singer away, almost got Alex Proyas to quit filmmaking, bowdlerized AVP: Alien vs. Predator, Kingdom of Heaven, Live Free or Die Hard and X-Men Origins: Wolverine, has a Hair-Trigger Temper, slashes budgets, demands family-friendly rewrites, runs whatever Cash Cow Franchises he has into the ground and was responsible for Daredevil and Fant4stic turning out the way they did. He also hated Deadpool and kept preventing Deadpool from being made, hence him saying "Hi Tom!" in the test footage. Once he was gone and Deadpool did get made, it broke box office records. Brilliant work, Tom.
  • It's infamous in the punk circles that Tony Brummel, the founder and head of Victory Records, is a horrible boss to the bands he signs. Streetlight Manifesto had such a poor relationship with Victory that they'd rather the fans pirate their music than purchase from Victory, and Thursday have complained of royalty issues and Brummel's ideas regarding the band's merchandise (as in he commissioned whoopie cushions to promote Full Collapse), which is why they eventually jumped to a major label. Aiden left the label when they learned that they received zero royalty payments from their album sales, and both Hawthorne Heights and A Day to Remember sued Victory just to get out of their contracts. (Hawthorne Heights eventually released one more album and EP before jumping ship.)
  • In 2015, a lot of head had gone around regarding Konami, but reports about the treatment of its staff plant its execs, at least one of whom has zero experience with videogames, squarely in this trope. It's no wonder Hideo Kojima burned that bridge the instant he could and welcomed Sony with open arms.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MeanBoss